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US hits Iran’s drone program with fresh sanctions after Israel attack

Washington has announced new Iran sanctions in response to last week’s attack on Israel, targeting 16 people and two entities linked to Iran’s drone production and testing.
ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday announced new sanctions on Iran in response to last week’s aerial attack on Israel as it works to prevent a wider conflagration in the Middle East.

The targets announced by the Treasury Department included 16 individuals and two entities enabling Iran’s drone production, including engine types that power the drones used in the attack. 

It designated five companies providing materials or purchasing finished products from Khuzestan Steel Company, one of Iran’s largest steel producers.

Iranian automaker Bahman Group and three of its subsidiaries were also hit with sanctions over their alleged material support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In its first-ever direct attack on Israel, Iran and its regional proxies launched more than 300 drones and missiles overnight Saturday in retaliation for the Israeli bombing of its embassy in Syria that killed several senior Iranian commanders. 

Thursday's sanctions come as the Biden administration seeks a coordinated diplomatic response to the Iranian attack, concerned that forceful retaliation from Israel could set off a dangerous escalation in a region already on edge over its war against Hamas militants in Gaza. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the department would continue using economic tools to “degrade and disrupt” Iran’s malign activity, including its drone program.

“We will continue to deploy our sanctions authority to counter Iran with further actions in the days and weeks ahead,” Yellen said in a statement.

The United States has imposed sanctions on more than 600 individuals and entities linked to Iran and its proxy network over the last three years, according to the Treasury Department. 

The House of Representatives passed a slew of bills following Saturday’s attack aimed at holding Iran and its proxies accountable. Among the legislation, one piece aims to curb Iran’s illicit exports to China through sanctions and another would require a report on the financial holdings of senior Iranian officials. 

Yellen touted what she described as the Biden administration’s vigorous enforcement of sanctions on Iran, including “historic fines” and the exposing of multiple sanctions-evasion networks.

“Our actions make it harder and costlier at every turn for Iran to continue its destabilizing behavior,” Yellen said.

In coordination with the US government, the United Kingdom imposed sanctions Thursday on leading Iranian military officials and actors linked to its drone and ballistic missile industries.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described Iran’s unprecedented attack as “a reckless act and a dangerous escalation.”

“These sanctions — announced with the US — show we unequivocally condemn this behavior, and they will further limit Iran’s ability to destabilize the region,” Sunak said in a statement. 

This developing story has been updated since initial publication.